The task force created by the Trump administration, and now the Cold Case Task Force, is long overdue. Nevertheless it is low hanging fruit meant to distract, appease and pacify people, while not actively getting to the root of the MMIW problem.
I mean, if the president truly cared about violence against women, he would not have made a career demonstrating and celebrating behavior that perpetuates violence against Native women and girls. I have been learning and studying political candidates and trying to understand the mindset of people during these historical periods to give me insight on how we are living at the moment.
Throughout history, white supremacy has shown its power to reform institutions. I look at what happened almost 200 years ago with Andrew Jackson and compare the undertones to President Trump. It is an uncanny ideology.
When President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, ordering the removal of all Native Americans from their tribal land to reservations, the Supreme Court initially attempted to side with the tribes, who had signed treaties that ensured their national sovereignty. What people do not understand is that President Jackson bypassed the courts and overstepped the executive branch to further meet the needs of white supremacy, as we have seen time and time again in this current presidency.
Between 1830 and 1850, President Jackson oversaw the forced relocation of 100,000 Native Americans at the hands of federal and local military forces, resulting in the loss of ancestral homelands and thousands of deaths from exposure, disease, and starvation. This removal was white supremacy made clear, and the legitimation of land theft was made solid.
A couple of weeks ago, when I spoke to the Executive Director on the Presidential Task Force for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, there was clearly no language in this presidential task force for state-recognized tribes.
Dr. Ryan Emanuel said it best in his report, “The extent to which Indigenous voices are heard—let alone incorporated into decision-making—depends heavily on whether or not Native nations are recognized by the federal government.” This gives us no voice in policy or decision-making on issues that clearly deal with indigenous people.
This week it was announced that seven Cold Case Task Force offices across the nation, dedicated to solving cold cases involving missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, are opening in August, in Rapid City, SD (August 4); Billings, MT (August 6); Nashville, TN (August 12); Albuquerque, NM (August 18); Phoenix, AZ (August 20); and Anchorage, AK (August 27). The Trump Administration did this with no input from the organizations actually doing this work.
The same goes for Operation Lady Justice, the task force created to look into Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women. This is not a political issue, and Trump could have consulted with Congresswomen Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids on the creation of both of these task forces. For some of the organizations and families, they found out the same way everyone else did, via press release.
The president’s daughter Ivanka actually attended the ribbon cutting in Minnesota in which there were a lot of Native women who were protesting the event. Her visit comes as her father’s poll numbers are taking a hit. I honestly think if they cared at all about the victims of MMIW and their families, they would not have scheduled two other political “stumping” visits in the Land of 1,000 Lakes.
First, Ivanka stopped by a century-old maker of canvas and leather goods, speaking on the president’s commitment to American workers. Duluth Pack was the latest American company to sign the president’s pledge to America’s workers, where businesses commit to retraining and educating their workforce. Then she rounded out her trip to the ribbon cutting. Again, I am pretty confident this was a ploy to get Native American/Indigenous votes as well as a photo opportunity to increase Trump’s numbers.
I have heard from Ojibwe Grandmother Mary Lyons that no one on that Federal Cold Case task force informed the chair of Minnesota’s MMIWG Task Force Mary Kunesh-Podein or much less the MN Task Force members the Trump Administration was coming. It is a confirmation that the voices of American Indian women are not being acknowledged.
Again, not living in Minnesota, but just speaking with the grandmothers and aunties who are working with the families and legislation, there are questions that should be answered. For the federal government to simply bulldoze and push aside the hard work these legislators have done for a dog and pony show is atrocious. The feeling is that the cold case department was quickly put into place just one week prior to this visit.
I don’t know what is worse, the campaign using this platform of cold cases of Missing, Murdered Indigenous Women to gain first nation’s votes, or Trump’s daughter being the face of this women’s empowerment, as she has consistently failed to represent women in the past.
Ivanka Trump has had the opportunity to be a force for policies that help women. In order to represent women and especially those in an invisible population (Native women), Ivanka must advocate for all women, not merely privileged women like her. She has made promises to women that she is the voice for, but so far, her work has amounted to photo ops and tweets. She has failed to convey a set of tangible policy solutions to address women’s different experiences and challenges.
With less than 99 days away from the election, it is not too late for her to improve her track record on these issues while truly leveraging the full resources of the federal government to make progress on paid leave, equal pay, child care, women’s entrepreneurship, fair scheduling, paid sick days, the budget, pass the 2020 Violence Against Women Act, stop supporting pipelines that bring in man camps raising the inevitability of an increase in violence, drugs and human trafficking, invest in affordable housing, fully fund the Indian Health Service, stop destroying sacred lands for money and a whole host of other worthy actions.
Again, with the first daughter stopping and taking photos and cutting the ribbon to the inaugural MMIW Cold Case office, this is her way of pushing the Trump Administration’s misogynist agenda in a disguise of helping Native American women.
Crystal Cavalier-Keck is a doctoral student at the University of Dayton, writing her dissertation on Missing Murdered Indigenous Women in the South Eastern United States. Crystal moved back home to North Carolina after working 15 years with the Department of the Army, Department of Defense and Federal Government.